Stand-Off Fire – the Feasibility of Overbalance & the Deterrence Aspect

In the era of asymmetrical conflicts, the objective of the state side is to create a situation of interests, at the end of the confrontation, where the other side will not want to lose those interests. David Ivry believes such an objective may be achieved by combining the use of stand-off weapons and other state-initiated economic measuresThe Feasibility of Overbalance & the Deterrence Aspect

IMI's Delilah air-to-surface standoff missiles (Photo: IMI)

Military history includes numerous examples of the use of stand-off weapons. In some of those examples, stand-off fire was a decisive element in the attainment of overbalance while in others, the stand-off fire capabilities notwithstanding, overbalance was not achieved. This means that in order to achieve overbalance, additional elements or other conditions are required so that the stand-off weapons can ensure that overbalance is achieved.

The famous battle in which David defeated Goliath was won using a stand-off weapon – slingshot and pebble – opposite a man armed with a shield and spear. In this case, according to the Old Testament, overbalance was achieved. Throughout history, every side to every conflict aspired to acquire effective stand-off capabilities opposite the other side, as in the case of the weapons used – the bow, the lance opposite the sword, the rifle opposite the pistol. In armored warfare, overbalance in armor-versus-armor battles was achieved by utilizing more effective and longer firing ranges. In the air, air-to-air missiles offering superior launching ranges and performance envelopes were developed, thereby enabling users to achieve overbalance in air combat encounters.

In most cases, the stand-off weapons were obtained by the other side as well after a while. In other words – the advantage had a time limit.

In the present era – the era of asymmetrical conflicts, or the conflicts where the use of force is restricted, in most cases the state engaged in a conflict with a terrorist organization possesses stand-off weapon systems and numerous capabilities the terrorist organization does not possess, nor have a chance of obtaining those capabilities.

The terrorist organization, which is normally the provocative side, will challenge the state side all the way to the farthest point where it is still under restrictions with regard to the employment of its superior strength and significant advantages, owing to such mandatory norms as avoiding damage to uninvolved parties or such considerations as media image. In some cases, the provocative side will make a mistake and cross a certain threshold where the state side would gain the legitimacy to use its superior strength, but even in such cases, that legitimacy will only be granted for a limited period of time.

As the criteria for success are different for each side and are not directly associated with the actual results of the purely military encounter, each side will examine the results of the campaign according to the goals it had set for itself. If a 10:0 military victory is not regarded as a defeat by the provocative side, as its goal was to drag the state side into a confrontation, then a 10:1 result will be regarded by that side as victory, simply because it had managed to score that one point.

The objective of the state side is normally to avoid a confrontation, so that even by engaging in a confrontation, the provocative side would have accomplished some sort of victory. Even the attainment of legitimacy for military action is difficult for the state side. It has a time limit and does not enable it to achieve overbalance, as overbalance is not among the rules of the game and the international norms regarding asymmetrical confrontations.

The conclusion of this brief summary is that the state side should employ its stand-off weapon systems or its superior capabilities while striving for the shortest possible confrontation. Overbalance will not be achieved in any case and deterrence is a function of the danger of the loss of interests more than a function of the severity of the blow sustained by a certain side. Accordingly, the objective of the state side is to create a situation of interests, at the end of the confrontation, where the other side will not want to lose those interests, so it would not be tempted to engage in another confrontation. Such an objective may be achieved by combining the use of stand-off weapons and other state-initiated economic measures.

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